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Big Green ready for a Penn air raid

  • Dartmouth defensive backs Tyson Grimm (13) and Jordan Washington (28) run drills during a football practice at Memorial Field in Hanover, N.H., on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news / report for america photographs — Alex Driehaus

  • Running back Desmin Jackson (39) catches the ball during a football practice at Memorial Field in Hanover, N.H., on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Wide receiver Jackson Gerard (82) catches the ball during a football practice at Memorial Field in Hanover, N.H., on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

  • Quarterback Devon Lingle (18) runs the ball during a football practice at Memorial Field in Hanover, N.H., on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/29/2022 8:54:49 PM
Modified: 9/29/2022 8:54:53 PM

HANOVER — For the second straight week, the Dartmouth College football team will be facing an offense that is struggling to score. After letting Sacred Heart wake up to the tune of 38 points last Saturday, the Big Green are eager to avoid a repeat performance in Friday night’s Ivy League opener against Pennsylvania (7 p.m., ESPNU).

The Pioneers hurt Dartmouth (1-1) with quick screens — they threw 16 passes behind the line of scrimmage, according to coach Buddy Teevens — and the Big Green had no answers, blowing a two-touchdown second-half lead thanks in no small part to an inability to wrap up ballcarriers.

“We didn’t anticipate that as frequently,” Teevens said. “They saw that it worked and they kept going back to it, and we didn’t stop it. If you show that you have an answer, you change things. Early in the game, their run game was not really going and they resorted to the pass, and that’s what really hurt us.”

Dartmouth is likely to face another aerial attack against Penn (2-0), which has thrown the ball 57% of the time in home victories over Colgate and Lafayette.

Sophomore quarterback Aidan Sayin became the starter midseason last year, the first freshman to throw a pass for the Quakers since 2013. He’s completed 65% of his attempts for 485 yards and three touchdowns, though he has also thrown three interceptions.

Penn’s offense was silent in the first half against Colgate before exploding for 22 unanswered points in a comeback win on Sept. 17. Last week, the Quakers shut out Lafayette, 12-0, despite mustering just 270 yards of offense, 74 of which came on the ground. Trey Flowers, Penn’s featured running back, is averaging an uninspiring 3.8 yards per rush on 36 carries.

Teevens said senior linebacker Marques White, the only returning starter in that position group, will be back after missing the first two games with a torn meniscus. Junior safety Cam Maddox, who was carted off the field in the second quarter at Sacred Heart after sustaining a hip injury, will miss the rest of the season.

“Their quarterback can really sling the ball,” said linebacker Macklin Ayers, a junior who leads the Ivy League in tackles with 23. “Our secondary and linebackers have to be ready for that. They have a really strong running back; he hasn’t run for a ton of yards yet this season, but he could explode any game. I’m sure they’ve got some screens coming for us also.”

On the other side, the Big Green’s multi-pronged rushing attack that ranks first in the Football Championship Subdivision with 7.37 yards per carry will collide with Penn’s FCS-best 0.81 yards allowed per rushing attempt. The Quakers’ defense has not allowed a touchdown through two games, with a Colgate interception return the only time an opponent has reached the end zone against them.

Dartmouth is the only FCS team with multiple players averaging 100-plus rushing yards per game — in fact, the Big Green have three in senior quarterback Nick Howard, fifth-year running back Zack Bair and sophomore running back Q Jones. Senior Noah Roper is also expected back after missing the Sacred Heart game with an arm injury.

But Teevens’ team may need to put the ball in the air more against the Quakers. Inclusive of sacks, Penn allowed a grand total of one rushing yard against Lafayette, and even just counting designed runs, the Leopards ran for a paltry 1.6 yards per attempt. Defensive lineman Jake Heimlicher, after recording three tackles for loss and a sack, was named Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week.

“Stopping the run is going to be pivotal,” Penn coach Ray Priore said in his weekly press conference. “We’ll put all of our assets into doing that, and we’ll see whether (Howard) can beat us with his arm.”

Howard’s first opportunity to beat a team with his arm did not go according to plan. His two-minute drill came up short at the end of the fourth quarter, and after running the ball on six consecutive plays to start overtime, his first throw of the extra session resulted in a game-ending interception. The Big Green boast a number of athletic receivers, from junior Paxton Scott to seniors Dale Chesson, Jamal Cooney and Jonny Barrett, but none of them have more than three catches across the first two games.

Teevens was optimistic that right tackle Griff Lehman will be back in the offensive line rotation after missing the first two weeks with a leg injury, which should help a work-in-progress offensive line in pass protection. That line will face by far its toughest test yet against Penn’s defensive front.

Ayers, one of 10 players on Dartmouth’s roster from Pennsylvania, was not offered by the Quakers and said Friday’s game carries extra significance for him in his first year as a starter.

“This one means a little more,” Ayers said. “They never gave me a shot like (Teevens) did, so I’m really excited. Friday night, should be a great atmosphere, ESPNU, can’t ask for a lot more than that. It’s a great stage.”

Benjamin Rosenberg can be reached at brosenberg@vnews.com or 603-727-3302.


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